This morning, I have a new “beard” (the last one was tiger strips, lasted for too short a time, sadly, as I cocked it up when re-shaving it).
Monthly Archive for June, 2005
I finally got my copies of the So Safe comic, posted up by Mark. It looks gorgeous (and smells even better!), really rich colours, far better than I’d expected, and the paper it’s printed on is really very good. There are a few little unintended design glitches: all of the drop-shadows I put in using InDesign seem to have come out very boxey and interefered slightly with stuff in front/behind, and there are some very strange lines on the bottom-right of the anti-smoking page I linked to before, but these really are minor and probably won’t be noticed by anoyone other than me.
Make that four cheers for UP Group!
I got a new mobile phone on Thursday! A Sony Ericsson s700i. Initial impressions are very good, a hell of a lot better than my old Motorola v525, but there are still a few niggles, and it annoys me that mobile phone manufacturers still seem incapable of getting to grips with simple ergonomics.
My biggest annoyance so far, and this may sound petty, is the camera noise. I have a choice of three different shutter-click or beepy-type noises to fire off every time I take a photo. But why the hell should I want one of these? So far I’ve been unable to find a way of switching them off (I suppose I could probably put the phone on silent mode, but I’d rather just have the shutter silent whatever mode I’m in). Admittedly, part of the reason I want to do this is so that I can take sneaky shots in art galleries and museums without attracting the ire of nearby curators (I was recently politely ushered out of the White Cube for daring to take photos of the works on display. As it turned out – karma – none of my pictures came out). Perhaps Sony Ericsson have put this “feature” in to stop people taking illicit shots in school changing rooms etc, but I think it more likely they’ve just forgotten that some of us don’t like sounds to accompany every little thing we do.
My other really big annoyance is the headphones – they are the annoying in-ear type which never actually fit in your ear. I find myself having to either hold them in physically, or stuff them back into my ear every five seconds or so, and I already lost one of the foam coverings only one day after getting the phone. Last time I bought something made by Sony (a Clié PEG-N770 PDA) it came with a beautiful set of clip-on headphones, probably the best personal stereo headphones I have ever owned. If they supply them with MP3 playing PDAs, why can’t they provide something similar for this MP3 playing phone?
The other annoying thing about the headphones… wires! Really badly tangly ones at that. I’ve tried curling them up into a nice neat loop, but they seem to have an inbuilt tangling mechanism which means that every time I go to put them on, I have to put everything else down and spend about a minute detangling the wires before I can get them in my ears (for five seconds, after which as I mentioned, they drop out again). The phone has Bluetooth, there are mono Bluetooth headsets available for it, but not only did it not come with Bluetooth headphones, it seems that there are no Bluetooth stereo headphones available for this type of phone. And, of course, because it has a non-standard Sony Ericsson connector, I can’t just go out and buy another set of headphones. God, they could even just have put some little winding device on the wires, so I could store them away safely between uses, but even that it seems was beyond them. I would love to use this phone all the time as an MP3 player and radio, but the crap headphones mean I will probably use that function for a week or so and then give up in despair.
Interface and OS-wise, the phone is a big improvement over my last Sony Ericsson (a T610) and for the most part over my Motorola, although the OS is still a bit sluggish at times and there are some areas where Motorola beat Sony-Ericsson hands down, in particular text entry and the most-recently-called list. The alarms application is the same as the old T610 one: better than Motorola in that you can specify which days of the week you want your alarm to go off on, worse in that you can only have one recurrent alarm and you can’t give it a name.
I still reach occasional points in the system when I think “why can’t I do this with this” (or more likely “why can I do this with this from that screen, but not from this one), all the dots are not yet joined up; again things have improved since the T610, but I would have thought that any usability expert worth their salt could have sat down, produced a map of functions, and got Sony Ericsson to implement all the right ones in all the right places. If they’re willing to bung me five grand I’ll do it for them; but then I made a similar offer over the horrendously designed and architected Sony website(s), and they haven’t yet taken me up on it (and their websites are as clunky and hard to navigate as ever).
Back to the camera, it’s a very nice little toy. It will probably stop me from buying a new camera for a little while, as I now have something which fits in my pocket that I can use for snapshots. It’s 1280×960 resolution, which is the same size I normally set my five-year-old F505V to, though my old camera has a much better CCD and pictures from this phone are noticeably (even to me) worse quality; also, the shutter speed seems very slow: even in fairly decent light I have to make a real effort to hold the camera steady if I want to avoid my pictures coming out as a complete blur. It is, like I said, a toy rather than a real camera, but I think I’m going to find it a fairly useful toy. The other good thing is that it has a lens cover, which none of my previous camera phones have had, so I should be able to avoid pictures becoming a mess of fluff and scratches within a couple of days of owning the phone. If, that is, I remember to close the lens cap after I use it; there’s no guarantee of that. I was also annoyed that the phone didn’t come with some sort of pouch: I can see that lovely shiny screen descending into a mess of scratches within a few days travelling in my pockets.
Still, I probably sound more negative about this phone than I feel right now: I’m very excited about my new toy, and can’t wait to get out and about and show it off a little
I had a great night out last night, and am suffering as a result this morning.
First up was the Orange Book Awards party at Sheffield Central Library (I’d been invited because I occasionally go to a reading group at Broomhill Library). There were some nibbles (smoked salmon, duck & orange paté, orange cake, chocolate orange, etc – somebody had clearly been using their imagination) plus orange juice and bucks fizz (the cheap nasty M&S variety, not the real thing), then some readings. One woman read most of the (rather lengthy) first chapter of We Need to Talk About Kevin. This was the third time I’d encountered that particular chapter – I read it once on the train down to London the other week, was so impressed that I read it aloud to Ed once I was in London, and then heard it read out again last night. Each time it gains something, the layers of meaning within the eggs incident becomes clearer (last night I realised that Eva left the eggs on the child seat of her shopping trolley, which was where her angry ex-neighbour found and smashed them. Eggs — children — smashed — Ah, I see!)
Next Marina Lewycka read two short excerpts from her book A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, which was the book on the shortlist I’d originally intended to buy (mainly because of the title), and I probably will before too long. I had a brief chat with Marina, who it turns out lives not very far from us.
The event seemed to end very quickly – I would love to have stayed and chatted a little longer – so I headed off to the Green Room where Hugh (from the Jim Muir Slideshow) was playing an accoustic set with his friend Mark (Johnson?). I met lots of Hugh’s friends (a flood of names & introductions), had a great time, but drank far too much rosé. Afterwards, we went to the Halcyon (which was much better and less chav-filled than I remember it) for the Designers Republic after-talk party. I remember very little, except for a soundtrack of the Human League and other early-80s Sheffield-electronica.
Stumbled home, I’ve no idea what time, sent many, many gibberish text messages to Gill and Mark on the way, had great difficulty keeping myself on the pavement, I kept swaying left and right, veering off into the road. Once home, collapsed on top of the bed, nearly breaking Gill’s leg, fell unconscious and then woke at 6am, still drunk and with the mother of all hangovers. Several painkillers later, I have barely made a dent in it.
The American Film Institute have just announced their list of the 100 greatest film quotes of all time. For me personally, the entire top 10 could have been filled with quotes from Marlon Brando (Kurtz) in Apocalypse Now.
I recently designed and layed out a comic for So Safe (with the help of Gaz’s usual excellent artwork). Believe it or not, this is the first magazine I have brought to fruition, and it was excellent fun doing it. Although I was supposed to be producing some rather dryer magazine designs last year, I’m glad my first piece was for kids, because all the normal rules go out the window: so of course I used as many colours as possible, pulled out all those funky fonts that I’d normally never touch with a bargepole, and generally just went to town on it (I should probably still have used a grid though; ah well, I was a bit rushed). There’s a lot I could have improved with a little more time, I dit get a bit slapdash especially towards the end (again using the “it’s for kids” excuse to justify sloppy layout) but it should still be much better than most of the public sector health information comics I’ve seen to date.
The results are now back from the printers, and although I’m still waiting for Mark to post me my copy, I’ve heard that they’re a real success. I have to congratulate our printers, UP Group. They quoted us a 5 working-day turnaround from receiving our artwork via FTP to getting 10,000 copies of the printed mag to us. I have to say I was a little skeptical about this, especially given that the mags are printed in Poland, but in the end they more than delivered. Due to ftp slow-downs and a 60Mb PDF, I didn’t get the comic uploaded until after the end of business hours on Wednesday (way after the end of Polish business hours, I’m sure). But they got all 10,000 copies printed and delivered to our client by the following Tuesday morning! That’s a little over three working days turnaround, despite having to deliver from Poland! Obviously the Polish keep themselves busy at the weekend. Well done guys.
Here are a few of the pages from the finished comic:
I took Gizmo for a late walk last night, set off at about 9.15pm and headed to Bole hills, a bag of plants and compost in my other hand. Once there, I planted out the forty-or-so tomato plants which had been getting more and more cramped in their original seed tray over the last couple of months. Forty tomato plants! I think the most I’ve ever had at one time in before this has been about three. I fully expect around half of them to die, especially after what they’ve been through, but even so I reckon we’ll have a pretty good tomato harvest this year (that’s if the tomatoes have time to ripen: last year the plants got blight while the tomatoes were still green, so we ended up making a hell of a lot of chutney). This year I expect we will make a hell of a lot of chutney, whether or not the tomatoes all ripen. Oh, and I almost forgot the best part: these tomatoes are Costoluto Fiorentino, which I think are perhaps the second tastiest variety in the world.
Also while at the allotment I saw my first two cinnabar moths of the year; I love those brightly coloured little creatures. And I checked out my shallots: they’re really going some, these past few days of sunny weather seems to have spurred them on (although the tips are yellowing somewhat). So, as well as tomato chutney, we should have a decent quantity of shallot confiture ready in good time for Christmas.
I’ve been playing around with my new Apple Mac PowerBook and OS X – mostly having fun, finding it quite a liberating experience after 15 years of Windows, although I have the odd gripe (like… I have to pay extra money to watch a video full-screen?!? Go fuck yourself Steve Jobs!)
This morning, I’ve been trying to access files from my two PCs downstairs. Went to finder, “Go” menu, “Connect to Server”. The first machine I tried connected fine, no problem. The second just was not having it; despite trying several times, using server name or IP address, rebooting the server, etc, Finder kept coming up with “The Finder cannot complete the operation because some data in ‘smb://servername’ could not be read or written (Error code -36)”.
I found an Apple technote about Error 36, to do with plaintext vs. encrypted passwords, but this clearly wasn’t the same problem as the console messages I got were different. Mine read:
mount_smbfs: error from NetrShareEnum call: exception = 382312522
mount_smbfs: error from NetrShareEnum call: status = 0x00000005
mount_smbfs: unable to list resources: raperr = 5 (0x0005)
So I finally tried another workaround: instead of connecting to the top level of the computer, I connected directly to the share I wanted, i.e. smb://servername/sharename rather than just smb://servername. Worked a treat! So now I have all my PC documents available from my Mac laptop!
It’s been far too long since I wrote anything for publication. So last week, I was happy to put the finishing touches to a book review, for Brand Republic, of the book iCon – Steve Jobs, The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business by Jeffrey S. Young and William L. Simon. There’s something very different about writing for publication: I take so much care over it, I must have gone over this article at least twenty times, ironing out grammatical errors and unclear sentences. And the feeling of having done a job well leaves me with a little glow inside. You can read the review here: I hope you enjoy it nearly as much as I enjoyed writing it.